The histological identification of increased eosinophils in the gastrointestinal tract occurs in numerous clinical disorders; however, there is a limited understanding of the mechanisms regulating eosinophil trafficking into this mucosal surface. The results presented in this study characterize the processes regulating eosinophil homing into the gastrointestinal tract at baseline. Eosinophils were found to be present in the lamina propria of 19-day-old embryos and germ-free adult mice at concentrations comparable to those present in non-germ-free adult mice. Furthermore, eosinophil gastrointestinal levels were not altered by increasing circulating eosinophils after pulmonary allergen challenge. Gastrointestinal eosinophil levels were partially reduced in mice deficient in recombinase activating gene-1 (RAG-1), IL-5, or the β common chain (βc), but these reductions paralleled reductions in circulating eosinophils. In contrast, mice deficient in eotaxin had a marked reduction in gastrointestinal eosinophils but normal levels of eosinophils in the hematopoietic compartments. Furthermore, eotaxin was important for regulating eosinophil levels, even in the presence of high levels of IL-5. These investigations demonstrate eosinophil homing into the gastrointestinal tract during embryonic development occurring independently of viable intestinal flora. Furthermore, eotaxin is identified as the primary regulator of eosinophil gastrointestinal homing under homeostatic states, and may therefore have a fundamental role in innate immune responses.
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